Image by RambergMediaImages via Flickr
Image by RambergMediaImages via Flickr
By ages thirteen and fourteen, hormones have already kick-started puberty. It’s important to have open and honest communication with your child during these years, since this can be the most confusing and complicated stage of a lifetime.
At this age, it’s normal for girls to have started menstruating, growing pubic hair, and seeing breast development. For boys, they’ll see testicular growth along with pubic hair, voice changes, and wet dreams. It’s perfectly normal if they experiment with masturbation. This may be an uncomfortable subject for you to discuss, but it’s important for them to understand that masturbation is natural. Talk to them about when and where masturbation is appropriate and be patient. Your teen is more likely to open up about it if you discuss it calmly and are well prepared and show no embarrassment yourself. This open communication will keep your teen from experiencing any unnecessary guilt or shame that can come from their isolated struggle with his or her body.
This is also the age when kids are easily influenced by peers. They generally seek out like-minded friends who share similar beliefs and values to their own families, but inevitably they will be influenced to try risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drugs, or sex. The more you have talked to your child about these behaviors beforehand, the more likely they will stand up for their own values.
If you haven’t instilled in them a good sense of healthy eating, now is the time eating problems arise. They’re more likely to find television or video games entertaining instead of outdoor activities, but encourage the latter.
Show an interest in your teen’s social life and get to know their friends. Respect his or her opinions and discuss your own views in an adult manner. You’re raising an individual after all, not a carbon copy of yourself. Make your own expectations clear, but be proud of your teen’s individuality.
By ages fifteen to seventeen, most girls have gone through all the changes puberty brings and have completed their physical changes. Boys tend to run two years behind girls, so they are still maturing.
Friends become more important than ever during middle adolescence, so they’re more aware of the social behaviors of friends. They’re less likely to want to spend time with family. This isn’t a reflection on you as a parent, but a natural stage most everyone went through. It’s a good idea to remind yourself yet again that this is just a phase.
Their capacity for caring has increased, as well as their interest in the opposite sex. At this age their physical changes are not as confusing, so any conflict or outburst they may have had toward you at age thirteen or fourteen would have decreased.
They may experience doubt, depression, or feelings of isolation that can lead to risky behavior and poor grades. This is why it’s so crucial to have already developed an honest line of communication with them when they were much younger, which was hopefully reinforced every step of the way. This makes it easier for you both when a discussion needs to happen.
If your teenager expresses concerns, don’t downplay them. Never say things like, “get over it!” or laugh at the insignificance of their worries.
If your teen is involved in an after-school activity such as sports, drama, or an art club, go to their game, play production, or exhibit. Show an interest in their interests.
To develop responsible spending habits, work with your teen to develop a savings plan. This is especially useful if your teen has a part-time job and wants to save for a car. Even if you plan to give your teen your old car, come up with an expectation as to how much they need to contribute. This teaches responsibility that will be useful in adulthood.
You’ve instilled your values in your child for decades, been his disciplinarian, his hugs, and his biggest fan. Now he’s entered late adolescence, the age when society deems children legal adults. But your parenting still plays an influential part, even for eighteen to twenty-year olds.
By this age, your teen has become more emotionally stable. She will have a clear vision, or at least a long-term goal, for her life. Her sexual identity is clear, she can understand both emotional and physical aspects in a relationship, and she’s more comfortable around her parents.
It’s during this stage that your role as a parent has shifted. Your function now is one of support. You’ve raised a healthy individual, now it’s their turn to experience life’s successes and mistakes. A common mistake that parents tend to make is trying to be overprotective. Children will make mistakesâ€”that’s the only way to learn life lessons and develop wisdom. You may disagree with a choice your teen makes, but you can express your concerns without pushing him or her into a rebellious state. This will only strain your relationship. Your job now is to be supportive regardless of the mistakes.
It’s important to offer your teenager a lot of praise for their achievements and positive choices. This will increase their self-esteem and confidence. But don’t be afraid to prepare for the results of a negative choice. Your young adult may face a situation one day where he’s at a party and has too much to drink. Do you want to make sure he knows that he can call you for a ride home, even if you would have rather him not been there at all? In that case, make sure he knows he can resolve a negative choice (drinking) with a positive one (calling you for a ride).
Teenage depression is not something to be taken lightly. Untreated, it can lead to lifelong emotional and physical problems or even thoughts of suicide. If you’re a parent who has ever dealt with depression or is aware of a family history, decide to prevent the problem now before it has a chance to develop.
Depression prevention starts with parental understanding. Let your teen know that he or she can always come to you if there’s a problem, even if it may be uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss. Hopefully you will have already instilled a sense of trust and open communication with your teen in the earlier childhood years. That especially comes in handy now.
Make sure your teenager has a supportive social structure that includes family, extended relatives, affirming friends, and even teachers or church leaders. Being a positive influence goes a long way, so avoid drinking alcohol in front of your teen. Even at this age, your kids will pick up on your habits and want to mimic them, especially the bad ones. Be the best role model you can be, and make sure you get to know their friends. Even if you don’t approve of certain friendships, just being supportive of their choice of friends can boost their self-confidence.
Don’t complain about your teen “sleeping his life away.” Most kids this age are actually sleep deprived, so allow those additional hours of sleep on weekends. But if you start to notice your child is coming home from school every day and naps for a couple of hours, you may be witnessing a sign of depression.
Encourage extracurricular activities and exercise. Staying active helps reduce stress and gives your teen less time to think about being sad.
Make sure you provide your family with adequate nutrition. Most teens prefer junk food to good meals, but sitting down to a nutritious meal with the family is a healthy, positive influence in your teenager’s life.
Teenage depression is a common occurrencea result of genetics, situational stress, and changing hormones, but can you recognize the signs of depression if you saw them? And how should you react if you suspect your child is depressed?
If you notice your child loses interest in favorite sports or activities, ask them why. Losing interest during this stage can be a common thing, since teenagers are growing into the individuals they’ll become for life, but if they completely lose interest in something they once loved, depression may be the cause.
A teen that suffers from insomnia at night but sleeps for hours during the day may be exhibiting the fatigue and lethargy that come from depression. They may be turning to sleep as a form of escapism to shut their mind off of difficulties at school or at home. This also goes hand in hand with withdrawal from friends and family, which is another symptom to look out for.
While most teens show irritable or defiant behavior, excessive agitation or acting-out can be chalked up to being depressed. A depressed teen may have changes in appetite, either overeating or not eating enough.
In an outburst of rage or rebellion, your teen may scream that she hates her life and doesn’t want to live anymore. Don’t take this lightly or throw it back in her face harshly. Self-loathing and a sense of hopelessness inevitably lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you think you may be witnessing signs of depression, talk to your teen about it. See if they’ll voluntarily take a depression-screening quiz and consider seeing a therapist. You can even go to group family therapy if your teen needs support. At the very least, bring up your concerns with their physician. If a doctor prescribes them antidepressants, make sure they are taking it as directed.